Nopa Opens in Old Zola Space
Ashok Bajaj, owner of the Bombay Club, 701, Rasika, Ardeo+Bardeo, Bibiana and the Oval Room opened a new American brasserie on May 3 in Penn Quarter where the Spy Museum’s Zola used to be.
Just north of Pennsylvania Avenue
Nopa Kitchen+Bar is a 160-seat restaurant at 800 F St. NW, just a few blocks from the Verizon Center and across the street from the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum. It is named for its location, just north of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Bajaj gutted the old Zola space and started from the original plaster and wood moldings. Nopa’s interior is light-filled and sports a rustic industrial style. The décor features original whitewashed exposed brick, rough sawn wood paneling, steel accents and metal task lighting, which contrast dramatically with the red fabric on the banquettes and camel leather arm chairs.
There is a 14-seat bar is topped with zinc, with blue and burgundy stripped stools. The adjacent lounge has raised banquette seating with custom steel grids and belt leather woven between the metal supports to form screened alcove areas that can seat up to 12. There is also a communal table for six and seating for 14 along the lounge’s windows.
Greg McCarty is the restaurant’s executive chef. A graduate of the George Brown Chef School in Toronto, McCarty’s culinary career began in the New York City kitchen of Jean Georges. He cooked under Chef Vongerichten for six years, working his way up from line cook to executive sous chef of Dune in the Bahamas. In 2005, he returned to Manhattan to open Nobu 57. Before coming to Nopa, McCarty managed his own consulting business.
Dinner is served (all day long)
“We’re an American brasserie with a slight Asian influence,” McCarty told DC on Heels. “We’re making a brasserie menu and brasserie food. We wanted to represent accessibility as well. We serve all throughout the day like a brasserie would. You can walk at any time of the day and have a burger and a beer or sit down and dine.”
The menu includes fresh vegetable, often from local farmers markets, select meats and fish prepared with a French influence.
“The spring radish salad was inspired by the Dupont farmers market,” McCarty said. “I saw a luobo radish and the radish salad around that. I asked our purveyors, but they didn’t know what a luobo radish was. Later, one showed me the radish. They knew it as a lime radish.”
Nopa is beside the Thursday farmers market in Penn Quarter and McCarty will be scouting the vendors to see what is in season and get ideas for new menu items.
“As the weather changers, I’m already thinking about changing up the menu,” McCarty said. “Starting next week, we’ll probably have some of those tomatoes [from the farmers market] on the menu.”It’s important to go to the markets. Seasons vary. Sometimes things happen early; sometimes things happen later.”
The menu includes a raw bar with oysters and clams on the half shell; savory snacks such as roasted almonds with sweet chili, and blue cheese fondue with fruits and vegetables; market vegetables including heirloom carrots with toasted sunflower and yogurt, and crispy Brussels sprouts with pear and sesame; cheese selections such as housemade ricotta or Saint Agur blue served with rosemary honey and black rooster fruit-and-nut rye toast. They also have a charcuterie section with housemade country pate with pickled black radish, watermelon relish, cauliflower and shaved turnips.
“They are sharable items,” McCarty said. “We’re giving people as many choices as we can to dine. Better stories are told when people share food.”
Appetizers are priced from $7-$19 and include crispy soft-shell crab with avocado basil puree or marinated squid with black ovlive, zucchini, tomato and saffron. There are also sandwiches such as NoPa burger with Irish white cheddar, applewood smoked bacon and fries, and the market vegetable sandwich with cauliflower puree and fresh herb salad.
Entrees are priced from $18-$38 and include a pork chop glazed with sweet mustard and served with apple puree, lacinato (black) kale and spiced peaches as well as several steaks such as the prime, dry-aged 10 ounce strip steak with chili butter.
Editor-in-Chief Mark Heckathorn is a journalist, movie buff and foodie. He oversees DC on Heels editorial operations as well as strategic planning and staff development. Reach him with story ideas or suggestions at dcoheditor (at) gmail (dot) com.